Sunday, November 6, 2011

Gratitude, Day 5 (My Church)

This being Sunday, what better day to thank God for my beloved church, The Church On The Way, in Van Nuys, CA. 

I first heard of this church in 1996 when I was tuning the dial on my radio in my office one morning.  When I was working I enjoyed listening to Christian radio during the day.  I had heard this pastor (who I later learned was Pastor Jack Hayford) for several mornings and really liked his messages.  They seemed to get to the real core of the gospel.  I knew his church was in Southern California, but wasn't sure of its exact location.  I had been away from church for many years and though I had never lost my faith or trust in the Lord, I had slowly wandered away from walking with Jesus.  Now as I listened to Pastor Jack's insightful and Spirit-filled teachings, I prayed and told the Lord that if this church was anywhere within driving distance of me, I would go.  To make a long story short (and that isn't always easy for me!), I found out the church was located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, about 14 miles from me.  I did go the following week and I've been there since that very first Sunday! 

I can remember walking into the sanctuary for the first time and feeling such a strong anointing of the Lord.  It was overwhelming to someone like me who had been away from church since my early 20's.  I had tears in my eyes as I whispered a heartfelt thank you to Jesus for leading me there.  (I found out some time later that when the new sanctuary was being built in 1981, Bibles were buried in the foundation.  I well believe the Word of God and the prayers of many faithful saints are felt there these many years later).  I don't remember a lot about that first service, except I could feel the love of the congregation and knew there was something different here.  These were a people who worshipped, who praised Jesus and who had a joy I hadn't experienced since the early days of my salvation.  I knew in my heart from that day on that this was the church He had chosen just for me.  Did you know that if we pray and wait on God for direction in finding the right church, He will always answer.  It may take time, it doesn't always happen right away, but if we will persevere and "stand", trusting in Him to show us the way, we'll never be disappointed.  But I think the key is to keep persevering - discouragement can cause us to give up, but we will never know if the answer is just around the corner if we lose heart and quit.  After that first Sunday, I fully surrendered all to Jesus and He gave me new hope, new direction and a new purpose in life. 

I have learned so much about my heavenly Father through this church.  I had been on a diet of spiritual milk at best through those wasted years when I was away from God and going my own way.  But the good news is that Jesus can restore to us all that was lost.  He can redeem our situations and give us a new start.  I have been privileged to sit at the feet of great men and women of God these past 15 years.  I have grown through reading God's Word, prayer and closer intimacy with my Lord, discipleship courses offered through the church, Bible studies, conferences and weekly messages that bring home God's truth to hungry hearts.  We're in a transition period now, awaiting a new pastor in God's timing, but we continue to be fed from the fountain of Living Water, our Lord Jesus Christ. 

And last but not least, I am thankful for the friendships I have made there.  My first Sunday as I sat looking around the sanctuary, I had a moment of near panic and in my heart cried out to Jesus, "Lord, how will I ever meet or make any friends in this huge church?  Please help me to connect with others here."  And He did!  It took time, but as I saw familiar faces week after week, joined the church and then began volunteering, I did make new friends - friends I still have and who mean so much to me and are an important part of my life.  And in the past two years, the Lord has led my husband and me to a wonderful Home Group.  We meet on the last Sunday of every month and more than ever, know what it's like to be a part of the family of God.  We are loved, nurtured and prayed for by this incredible group of brothers and sisters.  So this month of November, once again I want to thank You Lord for my wonderful church.  Thank You that Your gospel will be preached there until Your return.  Amen.

And my latest Christmas card: